BBC iPlayer leaves Mac users in the cold

[intro]The BBC's video download service, iPlayer, has been given the go-ahead – but it could be two years before Mac and Linux users can join in. Boo!

Ever since I tried the BBC's beta 'integrated Media Player' (iMP) software, I've been waiting for the day when the video download service will go live. Just imagine: the entire output of the BBC available, at the click of a button, to any UK viewer. It's enough to make you proud to be a licence payer.

Of course, there were problems with the beta software - the quality of the downloads for portable devices was abysmal, for a start, and the whole thing used Windows Media DRM, which was incompatible with anything other than a Windows PC. But the BBC has had plenty of time to develop its revamped application (now rebranded 'iPlayer'), and now that the BBC Trust has given the go-ahead for the service, it'll surely be arriving soon and fulfilling the corporation's strict public service remit. Which means reaching as many people as possible by supporting all download platforms, right?

Wrong. The iPlayer will still run on the Windows Media platform, with built-in copy protection. You can watch anything broadcast in the last week, but it'll disappear from your hard drive in 30 days. Assuming you have a Windows PC. And if you don't? Get ready to wait.

To be fair, the BBC Trust has criticised the Windows Media Player plans, but it hasn't forced a change - it's merely said that a solution must be made available, and it would monitor the situation. The BBC, incidentally, claims it would be unworkable to make the service Mac and Linux compatible in the next two years.

I'm horrified. As a long-time Mac user - and license payer - I feel totally ignored by a corporation that is supposed to have a clear commitment to being inclusive. Sure, there aren't a load of video DRMs available for Mac right now - but perhaps the BBC should have developed its own. Or just gone the YouTube/ route and used Flash video streaming. Or maybe it should have followed EMI's decision and ditched DRM completely.

Guess I'd better get Parallels installed to run Windows on my Mac. And I think it's only fair I get a rebate on my TV license to allow me to do so...

Incidentally, the BBC Trust also said it considered the idea of allowing third-party content onto the service, as I mentioned in a previous post, but decided it was 'not appropriate at this stage'. Not that it really matters - with C4, Sky and ITV already offering their own Windows Media services, there'd be no significant difference. Drat.